Monday, June 28, 2010

Why it's time to get beyond patriarchy

This post is inspired by the 38th anniversary of Title IX which occurred last week. Actually it's "inspired" by this column by a sportswriter, blogger, and basketball fan. Wendy Parker believes it's time to get beyond Title IX. Me, too. But not in the way she means. She means it's time to move beyond enforcement. Because she doesn't like the proportionality prong. And all those men have suffered at the hands of us "dogmatic" activists with our "life-and-death rituals." Who knew we were all satanists, too? I thought I was the only one!
Clearly Ms. Parker's editorial triggered the snarky button (not that it takes much).
Seriously, though. the day we get to move beyond Title IX is the day after we've gotten beyond patriarchy.
So in the vein of Ms.* Parker's piece I bring you some reasons about why it might be a good idea to move beyond patriarchy--in a sporting context. I could of course go on and on about patriarchy and things like wars, oil spills, environmental degradation, domestic and sexual violence. But there are plenty of other blogs out there for that.

It might be nice to get beyond patriarchy so incidents around the targeting and abuse of women by professional male athletes no longer occurred on a regular basis.
It might be nice to get beyond patriarchy so that female student-athletes at colleges and universities were not accosted by their male counterparts in their dorm rooms while said male athletes are allowed to remain in campus housing.
It might nice to get beyond patriarchy so that these same female student-athletes had access to really nice locker rooms or you know even just basic medical care and the same amount of per diem when they travel.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so that fans of women's sports don't have to go searching for scores from women's events the day after. That they were just there on the ESPN ticker.
It would also be nice if we were able to see some of these events on actual television.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so that when feminist scholars of sport and culture mention that perhaps a certain photo of a female athlete might be a little suggestive and not too helpful to the overall cause of promoting women's sports that said scholar is not verbally abused in a public forum and made to seem irrational. Same is true of female scholars who critique certain violent or homophobic aspects of sport as a whole.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so the gay and queer athletes do not live in fear, do not have to stay in the closet, or have to take that apologetic, neo-liberal stance on their sexuality when they do dare to come out.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so that everyone, no matter one's race, class, religion, gender, sexuality, age or ability, has access to sport.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so that the women in my gym feel safe taking an aerobics class and not worried about being accosted by a middle-aged white guy who threatens them because the music is "too loud."
And it might be nice if gym owners recognized that sexism does not stop at the doors to the gym.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so that no more female sportswriters are attacked/abused while trying to do their jobs.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so that we don't have female sportswriters who say they love women's sports but won't protect them.

* Ms.--brought to you by the feminist movement!


Wendy Parker said...

I fully expected defenders of the Title IX status quo to be upset with that I wrote, and I’m not the least bit surprised to see you take vigorous exception.

But to slide down even further the miserable rathole that blames the “patriarchy” for what ails women’s sports and women in society is sad and tragic.

I was suggesting an upgraded way to comply with Title IX as it relates to women in college and high school sports today, not 40 years ago.

A great deal of your cultural tirade is misplaced and well off the mark. A few examples: Most male athletes are not violent with women. Many women athletes have first-class facilities, medical care and resources to compete at the highest levels. Women’s sports fans can get scores and news from voluminous sources on the Web. In my 25+ years of being a female sports journalist, I have rarely felt unsafe or uncomfortable in a mostly male environment.

My professional task as a journalist with a special interest in women’s sports is not to “protect” them but rather to critically examine the actions and motivations of those who claim to be their biggest advocates.

Above all, your hyperventilating has very little to do with the subject at hand. When a fanatical reinterpretation of Title IX morphed into extreme hostility toward a male sports culture that no law can address, the women’s sports movement as we have known it lost its relevance and its vibrancy.

That you chose to respond from within a hermetically sealed bunker filled to the brim with anger, resentment, grievance and perpetual indignance is proof that it’s time for new ways of thinking about women in sports.

Anonymous said...

Sports is a business. If you want women's scores on the sports ticker on ESPN (and, currently, women's Wimbledon and WNBA scores are scrolling along the bottom of my TV), maybe you and others should band together and start WSPN and show women's sports 24/7. If there is an equal demand and market for women's sports, why not? That way, through your television contracts with women's leagues, you'll help to raise the pay for athletes and create equal facilities.

The college issue is not a men's sport vs. women's sport issue. It's revenue vs. non-revenue. Few men's sports outside football and men's basketball are funded fully - few athletes have full scholarships. Teams outside football are short-changed on trainer's, strength coaches, etc. because the way to move up in those businesses is in football, the money sport. Nobody hires a strength coach because of his/her expertise in lacrosse or volleyball; strength coaches are hired for football first and other sports later.

Is it fair? I don't know. Is it fair that LaVonda Wagner gets $1.2 million not to coach after she literally drove Oregon State Women's Basketball into the ground? Is it fair that a local low DI basketball coach makes over $100,000 even though she doesn't have a winning record and her team averages 300 fans per game and she does nothing to reach out to fans, students, etc? Why should she make $100,000 when the high school coach down the street coaches part-time and has more fans at her games and gets more kids to her summer camps?

None of its fair, really. But, is it justifiable? Yes. Tennessee's women's program has nicer amenities, higher salaries, etc. Why? Because they win and they draw fans. Gonzaga gets all the perks of the men's team. Why? They draw fans (revenue) and win.

I am all for equal access at the amateur level. However, at the college and professional levels, sports is a big business. In real life, if your business fails, it doesn't exist (unless you're too big to fail, right?). If the market and demand is there, an enterprising women should start her cable channel and pay rights fees to show all the women's sports that it can and lift up the sports. NBC shows women's beach volleyball, but puts the men's final on Universal. Why? Ratings, I assume. It's a business. Money talks. Advertisers and viewers largely determine which sports and events are broadcast.

Isn't waiting around for a network run by men to create more opportunities for women the biggest sign of paternalism anyway?

ken said...

Uh-oh. If you think patriarchy belongs in quotation marks, I don't think there's a whole lot I can say.
But let me try anyway.
Even from within my hermetically sealed bunker I have had the opportunity to participate in two gender equity committees for two different DI schools during their respective NCAA reaccreditations. So I have read student surveys from female athletes; I have heard administrators try to defend inequitable facilities, access to trainers, quality coaching, salary disparities, administrative support and even access to training tables. I have interviewed coaches of women's teams about the lousy conditions under which they travel to competitions and miniscule recruiting budgets.
Second, a side effect of living in a patriarchal culture is the inability to recognize one's privilege. Not all women, whether they be athletes, students, journalists, have the same access to the safety you have been afforded. I can't imagine walking up to Katie Hnida and saying "Sorry you were sexually assaulted and harassed because you wanted to play football.But most male athletes aren't like that. Guess you were just unlucky. It has nothing to do with the American culture's obsession with hypermasculinity and maintaining male privilege."
But you are right. I do seem often to be indignant, pissed off, and frustrated--probably not perpetually, I do have other hobbies and activities.
My question is: why aren't you?

Diane said...

Ms. Parker, your attitude makes me think of all the men who like to say "American women don't know how well off they are," which is a "nice" way of saying "Shut up about this equality nonsense."

I'm sure that most male athletes are not violent with women. Most heterosexual people do not beat up gays. Most Caucasian people do not yell vile comments at African Americans and Hispanic citizens. So what? It is the culture of patriarchal privilege (and heterosexual privilege and Caucasian privilege, etc.) that permits violence and other forms of bigotry--in sports and the rest of life--not only to exist, but to thrive.

I understand that you believe Title IX needs an upgrade to be relevant to high school and college sports in this decade. Based on the evidence I have seen, I disagree. I have also noticed, over the years, that many of the privileged want to "upgrade" Title IX by eliminating it, at least with regard to sports.

As for the original post: The blog author has seriously studied Title IX and written pages and pages about Title IX for a very long time. It is precisely because she knows so much about Title IX and the precarious state of women's sports that she felt a need to sound off.

And though neither you nor Ralph Nader likes to hear about it, there is indeed a patriarchy. And the more women believe they must be part of it in order to survive, the more women and girls suffer.

Wendy Parker said...

I love how some sports feminists turn the issue of "privilege" on their critics when they're the ones who enjoy this most of all.

Women of my mother's generation could never have imagined having the privilege of sitting on gender equity committees and bemoaning the awful patriarchy.

They were too busy being forced from their jobs when they became pregnant, being unable to get credit in their own name and then having to navigate the work world anew when they became single mothers.

For many of them, the idea of going to college at all was a non-starter for financial reasons, even if they could gain admission from the awful patriarchy.

As the first person in my family to earn a degree, I'm a product of the amazing empirical progress of women over the last 30 to 40 years. I even started playing sports before Title IX was passed, and I thought that was the greatest privilege in the world.

I not only recognize my privilege, I live it every day. And I keep it in far more realistic perspective than those who toss around intellectually lazy words like "patriarchy" and "hypermasculinity."

As for Diane's last point, well, anyone can claim to be an expert, but if they don't reveal themselves it's hard for their credentials to be examined.

So please forgive me for not taking what they say at face value.

Anonymous said...

Hi Punkin Face,

Looks like a pissing contest. Hope you can piss farther.


Diane said...

Ms. Parker, I wasn't referring to you when I used the word "priviledged." Sorry that wasn't clear to you.

(And sitting on a gender equity committee is hardly a privilege, given there is a need for a gender equity committee...)

Unknown said...

It's interesting to watch the Title IX lemmings pile on Wendy Parker for stating a well thought out and widely held opinion.

Fortunately the opinions of folks like Ms. Parker and others whom are unafraid of the politically correct Title IX fanatics that hide in Academia and behind politicians are becoming more frequent and visible.

Allowing hardcore gender feminists to throw around their bogus patriarchy arguments is a guaranteed way to permanently damage the legitimate cause of equity in sports. Further their intolerance of any views but their own and insistence on equal outcomes instead of equal opportunity will ultimately damage your cause.

Anonymous said...

Too tell you the truth, the whole entire sports industry is conservative by all no means and most sports team owners and coaches are very conservative as well. Of course, there's always homophobia and discrimination against women in sports.